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How Does the Law Protect Victims of Freight Accidents?



Under freight accident law, those involved in freight accidents have a special method of recourse if they are workers on the vessel and meet specific requirements.

Although the U.S. Coast Guard only keeps statistics on recreational boating accidents, a quick glimpse at these statistics shows just how dangerous traveling on the water can be. In fact, in 2008, there were a reported 4,789 recreational boating accidents, 709 of which were fatal and 3,331 of which resulted in injuries.

If you work on a freighter, it is important to be aware of safety procedures. After all, freighter accidents can happen at any time. In addition, because freighter accidents fall under the purview of maritime law, which is fairly complex, you will want to consider hiring a maritime law attorney to help you better understand your rights as an injured party.

Freight Accidents and the Jones Act

Under the law, if you are injured on a freighter while on the job, you may be eligible to receive compensation under a law known as the Jones Act.

The Jones Act allows maritime workers to be paid in the event of injury. This is especially beneficial since most injuries sustained on the water are not covered by state workers compensation laws. In addition, the Jones Act provides for more benefits than most state workers compensation laws.

Qualifying for Compensation Under the Jones Act

Just because you are injured on a boat or at sea doesnt mean you are automatically eligible to receive benefits under the Jones Act.

First, you must be working at sea. Recreational boating accidents are not covered by the Jones Act. Furthermore, you must meet the following requirements to fall under the laws purview:

  • You must in some way contribute to the work of the freighter
  • You must spend most of your time at work on the freighter
  • The freight boat that you were on must have been in navigation either at sea or in another body of water involved in interstate or international commerce

These requirements are fairly encompassing and cover a variety of workers aboard a freight ship.

Establishing a Freight Accident Case

To receive compensation under the Jones Act, you must prove one of a couple of causes.

One way to establish a freight accident injury case is to show that an unseaworthy condition caused your injury. The term "unseaworthy condition" is basically when either the freighter, the crew, or a part of the freighter is not reasonably fit for its intended purpose. For example, a defective piece of equipment or a poorly trained and ill-qualified crew would constitute an unseaworthy condition.

Another way to establish a freight accident injury case is to show that your employer was negligent. The following are just some examples of negligent acts your employer may have committed:

  • Lack of adequate medical treatment after youve sustained an injury
  • Failure to fix an unsafe working condition
  • Ignoring a safety regulation
  • Lacking adequate equipment for workers
  • Failure to force workers to wear safety gear

Collecting Damages in a Freight Accident Case

Under the Jones Act, you are able to collect several different types of compensation for your injuries. The four areas of compensation you are entitled to are maintenance, cure, unearned wages and general damages.

Since you wont be able to stay on the freight after sustaining an injury, you may have to seek temporary stay somewhere else. Maintenance is compensation for money you had to spend on room and board due to your injuries.

Cure is the money you spent on medical expenses. There can be limits to how much cure compensation an employer must pay. Specifically, if it is deemed that your condition is beyond help even with additional medical treatment, then your employer will not have to pay for additional medical costs.

Unearned wages is the amount of money you lost due to having to take time off of work while recouping from your injuries.

You can also collect general damages, which includes money for pain and suffering, disability, and disfigurement.